As a (creative) entrepreneur, it is your passion to create or put together unique products or services and to distinguish yourself in the market. You create your own brand, have your own style and thus reach your own audience in a beautiful way. But what if you discover that someone else has copied your work?
Unfortunately, this is something that often comes up during coaching conversations I have with our clients and it also came up again at one of the SYSO VIP walk-in mornings . In that case it concerned own styled and made photography that is 'simply' reused by a competitor.
It can be daunting, but luckily there's a lot you can do about it. In this blog post I share seven practical steps to protect yourself and keep shining as the original creator. So, grab a cup of coffee and read on to find out what to do if you encounter annoying copycat behavior.
Copycats, what can you do about it?
To put it bluntly, it can be quite frustrating if you discover that someone else is blatantly copying your design, work, working method, tone of voice, brand name, marketing ideas, style or photos, you name it. But here are some steps you can take to deal with it:
It's understandable to feel angry or frustrated, but it's important to stay calm and not react impulsively. Take the time to organize your thoughts before taking action.
Gather all evidence that proves you are the original creator. This may include emails, contracts, invoices, screenshots, design sketches, copyrights or trademark registrations. The more evidence you have, the stronger your case will be.
Contact the copier
First, try to calmly contact the person or company that copied your work. Perhaps there is a misunderstanding or there is a possibility of cooperation. Be polite but clear about your concern and ask for a resolution.
Consult a lawyer
If the copier is unwilling to come to a solution, or if you suspect that your intellectual property rights have been infringed, consult a lawyer. A lawyer can advise you on your rights and options, and assist you in taking legal action if necessary.
Protect yourself in the future
Be sure to protect your creative work by registering it for copyright, trademark or patent, depending on the type of work you do. This can help you get legal protection and enforce your rights if copying occurs in the future. Also read this Chamber of Commerce blog post: Protect your work with intellectual property
Stay unique and innovative
Copying your work can be frustrating, but it's important to keep your focus on creating unique and innovative ideas. Stay at the forefront of your industry by constantly coming up with new things and showing your creativity.
Be proactive with marketing
A strong online presence can help you protect your brand and your creative work. Invest in a solid SEO strategy so you can be found online and position yourself as the original creator.
Extra ChatGPT super tip
Look, hiring a real flesh and blood lawyer is always preferable. But for a first, weighty approach, you can also take a look at what ChatGPT can do for you. For example, I generated the 'legal mail' below during the aforementioned SYSO VIP walk-in morning.
"Write a legal email to a webshop that has wrongly used my photos. I want them to stop doing that."
I am writing to you regarding the use of my photos by your webshop without my permission or compensation. I own these photos and using them without my permission is an infringement of my copyright.
I hereby request that you immediately stop using my photos on your web shop and delete all copies and versions thereof. In addition, I request that you confirm in writing that you stop using my photos and that you have deleted them.
I would like to point out that my copyright is protected by Dutch law and that using my photos without my permission may result in compensation. If you do not comply with my request to stop using my photos and delete them, I will be forced to take further steps to protect my rights.
I request that you respond within seven days of receipt of this letter. If I do not receive a response from you, I will take further steps to protect my rights.
I hereby trust that you will take my request seriously and that we can resolve this dispute quickly and peacefully.
[Name and signature]